Australia to take part in US-led strikes in Syria

PM Tony Abbott has also pledged that the country will take in an additional 12,000 refugees in response to increasing pressures

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed on that his country will join coalition air strikes against ISIS in Syria and that his country has pledged to take an extra 12,000 refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

The prime minister said both the humanitarian response and the stepping up of military measures against ISIS into Syria were in the national interest.

Australia had raised its terror threat to high a year ago, and officials have long been concerned about nationals travelling to fight alongside ISIS or attempting attacks on home soil.

“Destroying this death cult is essential, not just to ending the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East but also to ending the threat to Australia and the wider world,” Abbott said.

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The government said the legal basis for extending air operations into Syria was the collective self-defense of Iraq as the militant group did not respect national borders.

“We cannot defeat Daesh in Iraq without defeating Daesh in Syria too,” Abbott said, using the alternate name for the militant extremists who control swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The focus of the campaign would be on ISIS though, and not the Assad regime, he added.

“We have no legal basis at this point in time for wider strikes in Syria and we don’t intend to make wider strikes in Syria,” Abbott said.

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Australia’s decision follows France’s announcement on Monday that it would begin surveillance flights over Syria to lay the groundwork for striking IS targets.

Other nations involved in the US-led campaign in Syria include Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Acting with our head and with our heart’

Under growing pressure to take more refugees, Abbott also said the government was acting “with our head as well as with our heart” to help the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing the conflict.

“Australia will resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from the Syria/Iraq conflict,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

The emphasis will be on providing protection for women, children and families from persecuted minorities who have sought temporary refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the premier said.

The government will also pay to support more than 240,000 displaced people in countries neighbouring Syria and Iraq, bringing them food, water, healthcare, and other supplies, at an expected cost of $31 million.

While Australia refuses to resettle refugees who make the dangerous journey on unauthorised boats, its annual intake of humanitarian refugees is 13,750 and will rise to 18,750 by 2019. The 12,000 new places are a one-off boost to this intake.

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